Author Archives: Jay Paul

Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang – Build Music (Luaka Bop)

Built on traditional “bubu music” with roots in Sierra Leone, and still authentic, but re-imagined with trancey, pumping rhythms, samples from African bubu horns (like flutes), deep bass, & Janka’s signature vocals with chorus embellishments. Excellent music!

Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat)

Tuareg rock ‘n roll, with beautifully intertwining bass & rhythm guitars, lilting beats, & plaintive vocals about the pains and joys of the Tuareg people. Recorded in Bamako & named after the band’s Sahara Desert home in southwest Mali. Nice Tuareg music! More here:

ANTH: Cape Verde – Synthesize the Soul (Ostinato)

Lively music originating with those who fled tumultuous times (1973-1988) in this former Portuguese colony, an island 350 miles off the coast of West Africa, who preserved Afro-Iberian music but adopted electric instruments along the way. Lots of electric accordion, guitar, fast percussion, & soulful vocals. Fun!

Flavia Coelho – Sonho Real (World Village)

Title translates “Real Dream” …a reference to Flavia’s journey from the ghettos of Rio de Janeiro to her successful musical career in Paris. Brazilian flavors mixed with reggae, ska, & a bit of French pop.

Ani Cordero – Querido Mundo (self-released)

Title translates “Dear World.” Here are original Latin folk songs of love & protest, gently sung in Spanish by this Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter with the instrumental support of some of her closest musical friends.

Barika – When the Time Comes (self-released)

Intricate West African soundscapes with brilliant musicianship & wonderful flourishes of jazz, psychedelia, orchestral brass, & guest vocalists: Listen for Craig Mitchell, Daby Toure, Kat Wright, Matt O’Brian, & Stephanie Lynn Heaghney. This is an A+ CD! Listen to Barika here

Aquaserge – Laisse ca Etre (Crammed Discs)

A core of 5 musicians from Toulouse France, plus 11 of their friends, join forces in a new collaboration exploring a fusion of rock, pop, chanson, & French film music. Lyrics in French, translations in liner notes.

Chico Mann & Captain Planet – Night Visions (Bastard Jazz)

Nicely arranged and produced Afro-Latin boogie from two veteran LA/Brooklyn producers/DJs, Chico Mann & Charlie Wilder (Captain Planet).

The Klezmatics – Heretics (World Village)

Celebrating their 30th year as the most renowned band of the klezmer sub-genre, yet again reinventing the 19th century Yiddish folk music of Eastern Europe, here is their latest irreverent, evocative, celebratory offering. If you like klezmer, you already know…

Ethiopiques 30 – Mistakes on Purpose (Buda)

Girma Bèyènè was an Ethiopian singer, lyricist, arranger, & musical legend in the 1960s-70s. Following the ascension of Stalinist dictator Mengistu Haylè-Maryam after a 1974 coup, Girma looked for a way out of Ethiopia. During a 1981 tour in the U.S. with his Walias band, six of the band members slipped away and remained in […]

Gabriella Ghermandi – Ethiopia (ARC)

This Ethiopian vocalist & composer has created richly evocative Ethiopian fusion featuring many regional instruments in performances using traditional anchihoye, bati, & ambassel pentatonic scales; the latter often used in songs celebrating historical events as this CD does. The theme of the recording is a salute to the Victorian era Emperor Atse Tewodros II, who […]

The Nile Project – Jinja (self-released)

Second in a series of wonderful collaborations between musicians from diverse ethnic groups living (or formerly living) along the Nile River & its watershed (includes musicians from Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Uganda). Features original compositions conceived at a gathering in Jinja, Uganda (hence the title) for a project aimed at education, regional […]

Afrosonics – People Meet Your People (self-released)

An 8-piece band from Boise Idaho but including members from Congo, Nigeria, & Suriname, plus guest musicians. The music is more western than African, except for the percussion, but the musicianship is fine and there’s some nice funk in there! FCC violation on CD1 track #2.

The Gypsy Cuban Project – Havana Night Sessions at Abdala Studios (Universal)

Great Cuban rumba, salsa, & ballads, with distinctive additions of clarinet, accordion, & Gypsy brass & violin. Effort led by a Romanian Gypsy Damian Draghici & 14 other Eastern European musicians, who flew to Cuba to jam with locals and explore synergies. Should appeal to fans of both genres.

ANTH: Latin – Latin Christmas (Putumayo)

Title says it all. Some decent tracks here. I think I’ve heard some of the other tracks while shopping at the mall.

Vandana Vishwas – Parallels (self-released)

Third CD from this award-winning vocalist &  music scholar who was raised in India but is now an architect in Canada. This time she’s blended Indian musical traditions with other genres (see track names) in really inventive ways with pleasing results. Official Website

James Whetzel – Beatology Volume 1 (Olin Place)

New explorations into the rhythmic possibilities of the funk beat – 31 variations in fact! All tracks composed & performed by Whetzel, a multi-instrumentalist & master of the sarod – a many stringed fretless instrument played like a guitar. Lots of electronic instrumentation here as well. Includes subtle Asian flavors. Listen on Bandcamp here

ANTH: Africa – African Rumba (Putumayo)

In the decades after WW II, the influence of Latin rumba, mambo, & cha cha cha on African music was massive. Here this influence is celebrated with tracks from top African bands, sometimes working with some well-known Cuban collaborators. Nice music for Latin dancing.

Marcel Khalife – Adalusia of Love (Nagam)

Lebanese Oud master & composer Marcel Khalife performs with his two sons Bachar (percussion) & Rami (piano), plus Jilbert Yamine (kanoun – like a zither). Here he has set to music the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008). The music is beautiful, and quite moving!

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – Madjafalao (Because)

This band was founded in Benin Africa in 1968, releasing more than 50 albums into the 1980s, and then reformed with some of the original members in 2008 and released a new CD in 2011. Now here’s another CD full of new music that sounds fantastic & yet remains firmly rooted in highlife & Afrobeat, […]

Bitori – Legend of Funana (Analog Africa)

The Forbidden Music of the Cape Verde Islands! From these small islands, 200 miles off the coast of West Africa, here is the accordion-based funana music of the working classes, banned under Portuguese colonial rule for decades, but resurgent after independence in 1975 and finally recorded in 1997 by the great funana master Bitori & […]

Beats Antique – Shadowbox (self-released)

Another fine blend of world beats & electronica from this Oakland California trio, including tracks recorded in Moscow & Tel Aviv with local artists. Strong Arabic influences on some tracks (4,7), others more Balkan (1,8), & some dub (12), & more. Worthy!

Amira Medunjanin – Damar (World Village)

Amazing vocalist from Bosnia sings poignant Sevdah songs “from the beating heart” of her homeland, beautifully arranged ancestral songs with lots of gorgeous acoustic guitar by Bosko Jovic, & some nice piano from Bojan Z. Some say she’s “The Billy Holliday of Bosnia!”

Roberto Fonseca – ABUC (Impulse!)

Great Cuban music from a fine pianist, composer, producer & Grammy winner; some big band, some great vocals, orchestral pieces, & lots of great percussion, basically sampling the breadth of Cuban music (read the title backwards). Includes several notable guests.  

Piers Faccini – I Dreamed and Island (Six Degrees)

Really interesting; sort of folk or indie-rock, but with Middle Eastern elements throughout. By a British songwriter living in Southern France, the songs celebrate cultural diversity & express dismay at the ravages of religious and national extremism. Nice!